I'm at that age where I'm seeing the signs of "getting old". Now, I don't consider myself old - that perception changes with every passing year - but the symptoms are there. Reading a medicine bottle label requires me to hold it at arm's length, tilt my head up, and squint my eyes. It doesn't really help, but it's what I do. I'm seeing the beginnings of arthritis - ironically, in my "mouse" finger of all places. And after renewing my love of volleyball this summer, I woke up each morning after a game to my body shouting obscenities at me.
So, physically, yeah, I may be on the decline. But emotionally, I'm in the best shape of my life. I will never forget my mom telling me - I think back in my 20's - that her 40's was the best decade of her life. 40's???? Are you kidding me? That's elderly!!! (Insert angry look from my mother here.) Because according to her, that was the time when she finally started to put the pieces of the puzzle together - with who she was, where she was going, and who she wanted to be.
I hate it when she's right.
I've talked to people who would give anything to go back. For some, it's the college years. Others, it's their 20's, when they were making good money and partying every night. Still others hit their stride in their 30's, when they achieved their dream of finding their soulmate and having children.
Me? I'm good with right now. Looking back, one of my favorite times of my life was my last two years of high school. I had an amazing group of friends, little responsibility, and the world at my feet. But I was also an adolescent mess, and a real pain in the butt to my parents. College for me was a train wreck - I graduated, but without all the great memories of sorority sisters, college football games, and late nights at the local bar.
My 20's were spent doing what I thought I should be doing. I didn't have a clue. I was living by myself in a large city, doing a job I thought I was qualified for, and wondering what I was supposed to do next. I was definitely a lost soul. I started chipping away at my insecurities in my late 20's and began what I considered my career, and settled into a long-term relationship.
My 30's were a time of HUGE changes - I got married, owned my own home, had babies, lived on a military post, and traded in my professional title for "homemaker". Ultimately, I experienced the heartbreak of divorce, the trials of financial trouble, and the insane world of young children. As I approached my 40th birthday, my friends relentlessly teased me, "Ah, turning 40!!! How's it feel? Are you ready?"
My response: "BRING IT."
I've only been residing in this decade for just under three years, but I must say, it suits me well. I don't know what happened, but I feel like I finally dispersed that fog in my head that was clouding everything from my perception to my judgement to my personal opinions.
Although I'm not sure where my career is going to go, I know where I want to be and am taking the steps to make it happen. Even though my oldest son is entering one of the most critical and gut-wrenching times of his life (and the youngest soon to follow), I am earnestly listening to the advice of others and doing everything I can to raise them to make good choices.
I am figuring out what true friendship really means, and that a good friend knows how to give and how to receive. I've recognized some of my strengths and learned to work on my faults, and realized that one of the hardest, but most important things to say is "I'm sorry". And though I don't consider myself an optimist (yet), I've determined that a positive outlook does make life a little sunnier, and a little easier, and makes me much less of a "Debbie Downer" to those around me.
My 40's have made me incredibly thankful for what I have, the opportunities before me, and those that I have had the honor of knowing along the way. It's also fueled my empathy for those who are struggling, and makes me want to help them through their crises because I know where they've been.
So no matter what age you are, look back on your life, and ahead to your future. Are you wishing you could "go back"? If so, where and why? And if you're looking forward, good for you. I can only speak for myself, because my mom hasn't weighed in yet, but if my 40's are going this well, I can't wait for the "Big 5-0".